Billie Jean King (1943 – ) American Tennis Player and Human Rights Activist


When it comes to talking about Billie Jean King’s extraordinary life, one must not get stuck at her outstanding playing career. Billie Jean King, who became a living legend due to her unquestionable courage in and outside the Tennis court, did not get everything on the platter. After facing gender inequality at the age of twelve just because she had worn a Tennis shorts, she decided that she would have to become nothing but the no. 1 to become someone who is listened to.

Early Life and Career

Billie Jean King, one of the greatest Tennis Players of all time who won the Presidential Medal for her extraordinary contribution in tennis and promoting Women’s sports, had a simple childhood. King was born in California’s Long Beach. She was born on 22nd November of 1943. Her father’s name was Bill. He was a firefighter and her mother was Betty. She was a housewife.

Several of King’s family members were athletes. Perhaps that is why she felt motivated to become an athlete herself. She started playing at the age of eleven and it did not take much time for her to become famous.

In 1958, King played in the Southern California Championship and won her age bracket. Even though she started playing really early, she did not get recognised before 1961. This year, King, along with Karen Hantze Susman won the Wimbledon doubles. The actual success came when she won her first singles at Wimbledon in the year 1966. After that victory, Billie won the same title for the consecutive years. By playing the

singles and doubles, King became the Tennis player to have won the Wimbledon title twenty times.

  • In 1972, Billie Jean King won three titles. She won the French Open, the Wimbledon title and of course, the U.S Open. After that, she was known as Sports Illustrated’s 1972 Sportsperson of the year.

  • Another biggest turning point in her career came when the self-acclaimed chauvinist Bobby Riggs commented that women’s Tennis is inferior to men’s Tennis and challenged King to play a game with him. This obviously put King under a lot of pressure. She knew she was representing all the girls working in every field. In front of a ninety million audience, when King defeated Bobby Riggs, she became the motivation for all the women. By this time, if there was anyone who did not know her, came to know about her within seconds.

  • In the year 2014, Barack Obama, the President of the United States of America, honored her with the Presidential Medal, who watched the famous ‘Battle of The Sexes’ with Bobby Riggs at the age of twelve.

With such an amazing and magnanimous personality, King has now become the role model for every woman.

Achievements in Tennis and Impact on Women's Sports

Starting her career at the age of twelve, Billie Jean King went on till she hit her forties. She first began playing at the public Tennis court. After that she became a known face for Tennis after she played her first singles and won the Wimbledon title. Once this victory came, King became the only face to have won twenty Wimbledon titles by playing both Singles and doubles.

  • The famous ‘Battle of The Sexes’ Where she defeated Bobby Riggs, King became the first woman who started the norm of equal pay in sports.

  • Earlier, during a game, when King noticed that she was paid $15000 less than her male counterparts, she decided she would have to become the no. 1 to be listened to. After winning in the Battle of the Sexes, she became an advocate for gender equality which revolutionized women's sports further.

Gender Equality and Rights

  • Between 1960 and 1970s the paychecks women got were a lot less than their male counterparts. So, when in 1971, King became the first woman Tennis player to have won $100000, she noticed she was still paid $15000 less than other male players. So, she started playing to be the no.1. As her motto was to be heard.

  • Later King signed a contract worth $1 and became a part of Virginia Slims Circuit. Since it was founded to protest against gender inequality, it suited King so well.

  • After winning the Battle of The Sexes, she co-founded the World Team Tennis, WomenSports, and Women’s Sports Foundation.

  • In 2014, Billie Jean King founded the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative for women to address the issues related to achieving leadership in various professions.

Legacy and Influence on Sports And Society

Billie Jean King, who started playing at a very young age, and played till she hit thirty- nine, has left a legacy through her outstanding performance in and out of the court. After gaining her Wimbledon title in 1966, she never looked back. She won numberless tournaments, along with twenty other Wimbledon titles. Her win at the Battle of the Sexes made her the living legend.

Her strong advocacy for equal pay and gender equality has never gone unnoticed. Also, various organizations founded by her, still fight for one goal, gender equality, which made her a legend in the world.


Billing Jean King, being one of the most admirable women in the Sports world, has been responsible for promoting gender equality. Her various wins and strong advocacy have made her America’s most admired woman. She has also been known as one of the world’s most powerful women.


Q1. Did Billie Jean King Fight for LGBTQ community?

Ans − Yes, Billie Jean King was a strong advocate of gender equality and the rights of LGBTQ community.

Q2. Who named the tournament with Riggs ‘The Battle of the Sexes’?

Ans − People who did promotions for the game gave the name ‘The Battle of Sexes’.

Q3. What motivated King to be the no.1?

Ans − When King was taken out of a photo because she was not wearing a skirt, she understood the gender inequality and decided to become no.1.

Updated on: 11-Dec-2023


Kickstart Your Career

Get certified by completing the course

Get Started